Thousands displaced after upsurge in violence in Sheikh Maqsoud
Beirut, 8 April 2013 – Thousands of people living in the predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsoud (Aleppo) were displaced last week following a surge in violence in the northern city.
According to Mahdi*, JRS Aleppo outreach team member, many Kurdish residents have gone to their home villages outside of the city, and Christians have fled into other Christian areas in Aleppo. However, Mahdi expressed particular concern for the fate of those who have nowhere familiar or safe to go.
"We came across approximately 300 people in a park who had fled Sheikh Maqsoud. Fortunately, they weren't physically injured. We're given them hygiene kits, and are providing them with hot meals every day from the field kitchen", said Mahdi.
"Although spring has arrived and the necessity to house displaced persons in heated shelters is no longer as pressing, there is now a shortage of mattresses and tents. Rather than sleeping in public buildings, many people prefer sleeping in parks because of the softer bedding."
The JRS field kitchen makes up to 16,000 hot meals a day which are then distributed to mosques, school-shelters, public buildings and to other displaced persons who do not have the facilities to cook hot food themselves.
"We now have the capacity to make as many as 300 more meals within a short period of time. Trying to respond quickly is the least we can do."
Worsening situation. This latest displacement comes at a time when the situation in Aleppo continues to deteriorate. Electricity and telecommunications grids were down for most of last week, further complicating the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance. The water supply to most areas in the city has also been drastically reduced, and in some cases cut completely.
"It feels like we are living in an open-air prison", JRS volunteer, Lamis*, said of the inhabitants of Aleppo.
Moreover, the latest devaluation of the Syrian pound, from 87 to a US dollar to 115, is likely to lead to further drastic increases in inflation. According to JRS staff, inflation last year in Aleppo reached 300 percent. Further price increases will drive ordinary Syrians deeper into poverty.
Despite these difficult conditions and the harsh impact of the conflict on the lives of civilians, JRS continues to provide emergency food and materials assistance, as well as educational and psychosocial support.